Grocery Store Graceland and the Burger Barn Boobyhatch


Elvis enjoys a good bowl of soup. Sure, fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches get all the press, but there's something about a nice can of Campbell's that apparently gets the King all shook up.

I know this, because I saw him in the soup aisle of the Giant Eagle grocery store a few years ago. He was considerably taller than I'd expected-- a good six-foot-four and lanky-- but with the spangley big-collared white shirt, sunglasses, and side-burned coiffure we've all come to know and love...

Young Elvis with Old Fat Elvis accessories, really.

As I'd turned the corner to get a can of chicken noodle, I admit, I was surprised to see the American icon with his basket of ten items or less. And, considering this supermarket was typically patronized by college students and elderly Jewish ladies, the rest of the clientele appeared to share my sentiment.

I could pretty much tell just where Elvis was in the store by the 20-somethings walking past giggling into their hands. Or the blinking, glazed expressions on Gladys and Zelda as they returned from the deli.

Of course, when you live in a city, to a certain degree you come to expect these sort of things. I currently work across from a restaurant we'll call Burger Barn, which René Magritte and Salvadore Dali could have drawn on for choice material.

It's an old building-- what was once a 50s gas station, I've heard-- which was transformed into a restaurant and somewhere along the way it seems to have become trapped in its own unique plane of space, time, madness and kitsch.

Initially everyone who joins my company considers having a fast food joint right across the street as a bonus. They approach it with rosy spectacles, naively anticipating a burger-and-fry experience like those found in shops of the same name around the globe. Little do they know that this particular restaurant emits some kind of unspoken, yet strongly-magnetic pull for the strange and unusual.

They stop in once or twice and encounter someone kneeling on the floor and speaking in tongues...

Or someone with hundreds of silk scarves safety-pinned to their clothing, forming a robe of satin diamond-shapes....

Or they order from the cashier who smiles, only to reveal a full mouth of bright brown teeth...

It sort of changes your perspective on a BarnBurger Junior with Cheese.

And on Friday mornings? I can almost set my watch by the barking. It projects from the street below to my third floor office. I'd thought this was a part of a regular dog-walking ritual, but the receptionist recently shared that it is a man. A man who barks, and whines and whimpers, every Friday morning as he takes himself for a walk.

This is not to be confused with the man who pushes his small dog around in an old-timey baby carriage..

Or the guy who used to stand outside Burger Barn with a teddybear bungee-corded to his upper thigh, spitting out epithets or beautifully singing to no one, depending on mood. (Don't we all have those days?) Well, I realize I haven't seen him for a while-- and I find myself hoping he and Teddy are okay.

I think some days if I sat, watching the street below, the whole tapestry of humanity would eventually unroll itself before my eyes. For good or bad, it is what it is, and it's never dull.

Tomorrow afternoon, I'll be hearing Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries," Patsy Cline, or maybe even "Kick Me, Lord Jesus, Through the Goal Posts of Life" blasting up beyond my window at about 3:00. It's a motorcyclist who comes on through, sharing his tunes with the world. It'll probably be followed by the person who randomly shouts "Woo-hoo!" and the guy who drives the A-team van.

Yep, the only thing we can really expect in life is the completely unexpected.

And in case you were wondering? Elvis prefers Chunky Vegetable.

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8 comments:

OK, Crazy said...

One day we were on a nature hike, which sounds strange now that I say it out loud, do people actually go on those? Anyway, we were on a nature walk in the middle of a giant forest and, I swear to God, Elvis walked by. Well not Elvis, but an Elvis impersonator. Like it was nothing. Just going on a nature walk as well. It was insane!

I think that's a good idea, though, if you are a celebrity impersonator of someone dead, you should just go to crazy places, like the forest, and act normal, just to freak people out.

Jenn Thorson said...

OK, Crazy- I think the idea of Elvis hiking is hysterical. There should be a web site dedicated to Elvis impersonators photographed doing unexpected things. That would cheer me immensely on a bad day.

Da Old Man said...

What is it about burger places that they just seem to draw the truly weird? We have White Rose here. It just, at times, has the most amazing clientele. The staff, for reasons totally unknown, all have southern accents. It's just a little slice of strange in central NJ.

BTW, I have a friend who is a moderately well known Elvis impersonator. I'm not sure of his soup preferences, though.

Jenn Thorson said...

Da Old Man- Southern accents? In Jersey? Can anyone even understand someone who doesn't call it "cawfee"? :) (I mean, growing up there I might have had some trouble with it... )

Does your Elvis impersonator friend go out impersonating when he's not on-duty, so to speak?

Jay said...

Sounds like you live in a really ... um ... interesting place! LOL!

I'd love to see Elvis shopping for groceries in my local supermarket! Or preferably Johnny Depp - the real one - desperately in need of a lift home in a small blue runabout with a middle-aged woman...

One can always hope. ;)

Jenn Thorson said...

Jay- Well, Johnny-- YES, of course. I, too, would take him over Elvis any day. In fact, I think you've reminded me-- it might be time to watch Pirates of the Caribbean, or possibly Sleepy Hollow again. :)

Chat Blanc said...

Ah yes, all the world's a sideshow stage. ;)

Jenn Thorson said...

Chat Blanc- In some places, more so, it seems. :)